A woman is claiming that she is being cyber-harassed after Web hosting service GoDaddy revealed her email address to a spammer about two years ago.
It all started when Jamie Bernstein, a blogger for website Skepchick, reported a “dodgy-looking” spam email she received in 2012.
She said the email was sent to her, along with a bunch of other people she didn’t know, whose names also began with the letter “J.”
Realising that both the link within the message and the email address it came from were registered with GoDaddy, Bernstein reported the spam email.
Now, two years following the spam incident, Bernstein has realised that emails with a link to the spammer’s personal website have been circulating the Web. The spammer, who goes by the name Neo, has posted Berstein’s full name, email address and photo along with insulting comments on his page.
Here’s a screenshot of a post from Neo’s website:
Bernstein said that Neo had somehow obtained her friends’ email addresses and has been spamming them with the link to his homepage over the past several days.
But it’s not the emails, disparaging comments or publication of her email address that concerns Bernstein. It’s the larger issue that GoDaddy had potentially revealed her identity to this unknown spammer that makes her feel uncomfortable.
Bernstein said that GoDaddy never confirmed to her that it had told Neo she was the one who reported him. However, Neo told Business Insider via email that the company did indeed out her has the reporter behind the incident.
The topic sparked a massive comment thread on Hacker News on Wednesday in which one commenter said that reporting abuse to a website should not “carry the expectation of having anything about the reporter disclosed to the abuser.”
GoDaddy’s official support page says that it may be necessary to “corroborate a complaint” with a customer when someone reports a website or email. This means that GoDaddy may check with the person in question to make sure it’s actually a case of spam. Bernstein said she couldn’t recall whether or not she had seen that caveat when she submitted her complaint in 2012, but she’ll definitely think twice about reporting spam in the future.
“In my mind the real problem is not necessarily his website,” Bernstein said. “When people think about the Internet, they don’t always realise that this is an actual person in the world. And right now he’s anonymous. All I know is that I now have this person who feels like he needs to retaliate against me.”
Bernstein said that GoDaddy had imposed a $US200 fine on Neo for sending spam in 2012, but he had talked his way out of it by promising he wouldn’t send any more spam.
GoDaddy said it didn’t have any comment to offer to Business Insider, but here’s the full response it issued to Bernstein in response to her blog post.
We understand a situation like this is very frustrating. While this may not resolve the issues of the past, we hope some context will help explain how we manage spam complaints and address allegations of defamatory content.
We have a “zero tolerance” spam policy and investigate all accusations of potential spamming on our network. We notify the complainant that it may be necessary for us to corroborate their claim with the person accused of spamming. A critical point in corroborating a spam complaint is confirming whether there was an “opt-in” email consent from the person who says they are being spammed. This is why we ask for an email address from the person filing the complaint. Without it, unfortunately there’s no way to determine if the accused spammer had “opt-in” consent. When proof of “opt-in” isn’t provided, we consider the activity a violation and take appropriate actions to prevent further spamming.
As for the website created after the spamming complaint was handled, we do not make determinations about whether content is defamatory. As citizens of the Internet, we recommend you contact law enforcement to register a complaint about any website material you deem defamatory. We do not remove content without a court order.
Again, we understand this doesn’t erase the issues you’ve experienced, we just wanted to provide some perspective on our policies and the issues we have to balance as an Internet provider. If you would like to discuss this in more depth, please shoot me an email and I’d be happy to speak with you directly.
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